Sunday, January 21, 2007

We survived!

What a fantastic trip!

We set off at 7:30am out of Maadi, north up the Nile and then west across the river on the Moneeb bridge. We passed the pyramids and headed out of Cairo on the Fayoum road, turned right through 6th October City and then drove for about an hour out on the road to the Western Oases. At the GPS waypoint we just turned left into the desert, across the rail tracks and off into the unknown! It still amazes me that you can just turn off the road and drive wherever you like. The terrain was fairly soft and challenging in places, but fairly soon we reached the top of an escarpment and had to find a route down to the next level. This was repeated three or four times, with each "DOWN" being a different GPS waypoint. Thanks Mark for the coordinates :-)

One of the descents was a long sandy bank, dropping maybe forty metres, with a blind corner half way down - there was a heart in mouth moment or two as we surfed down the dunes. Our camp site was between some wind-eroded outcrops and we arrived just in time to setup the stoves for lunch.

In the afternoon, we explored Wadi El-Hitan, a UNESCO world heritage site, it is a beautiful valley full of amazing eroded rock pillars and bordered by dramatic escarpments. In the sand throughout the valley are the skeletons of whales, some of them up to thirty feet long, and thousands of other fossils and shells and shark's teeth scattered around. It really is one of the most beautiful spots in Egypt, and hardly anybody goes there. We camped about half a mile outside the valley, but there were whale skeletons very close to our camp, and almost every rock we picked up had some kind of fossil in it or was once a part of a whale.

Our steak that night was cooked over the camp fire and the sweet potatoes were cooked on the coals, and we sat around late telling our stories and feeding the desert fox who came to keep us company.

Saturday morning, after compulsory bacon and eggs, we broke camp at about 11:00 and headed for a line of sand dunes east and north of the valley. After an exhausting climb, the view was well worth it. The wind was pretty strong though and I discovered that my ears really can hold an impressive amount of sand.

We then set a course for Wadi El-Rayan, twenty miles to the east. This is an area where one huge lake pours into another through a couple of modest but impressive waterfalls. It made a great lunch stop, and then we sped off through Fayoum, along the south edge of Lake Qarun, and back to Cairo.

1 comment:

marcel said...

well done, you made it alright, did you take your own car along i guess it makes a good testdrive :P